In 2022, Bryan Huffman successfully swam across the English Channel. In 2023, he is setting his sights on swimming across a Great Lake.
For his newest open water swim, though, Huffman, a 50-year-old Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics (MLA) Masters swimmer and Holland Aquatic Center (HAC) member, is adding an extra purposeful component to his attempt: He will be fundraising for kids’ swim lesson scholarships at HAC.
“After I trained for the English Channel swim, and completed it, I thought, ‘Now what?’” says Huffman, an ophthalmologist from Holland, Michigan, “Having Lake Michigan in my backyard made it the obvious choice (to swim across next). And this time, I decided I would have a bigger reason for swimming. I want to raise enough money so that swim lessons are affordable for anyone who wants them at HAC.”
Huffman hopes to raise at least $50,000* for his Lake Michigan crossing, but over the next three years, his goal will grow. He knows that another open water swimmer from Canada, Vicki Keith, raised more than $500,000 for her community’s swim lesson program when she swam across all five Great Lakes in 1988. He wants to do the same for his hometown aquatic center, too, with lengthy future swims.
“When I hear that drowning is the number one cause of death in children aged 1-4 in the U.S., and the number 2 cause of death, second to car accidents, for children 5-15, I figured I could help decrease that in the most meaningful way I know how: swimming,” Huffman explains. “We live in a lakeshore community, where every child is exposed to the risk of drowning. Our goal is to remove barriers that prevent ‘waterproofing’ kids in our community, and to eliminate drowning from the top 10 causes of childhood death in our region.”
For 55 years, HAC Swim School has offered a full range of water adjustment and swimming lessons for children 6 months old through adulthood. Its instructional staff annually teaches more than 5,000 people how to swim and improve their swimming skills.
Huffman and his support crew will start the solo swim across Lake Michigan in early August 2023, weather permitting. They plan to start from Rawley Point Lighthouse, just north of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and finish at Big Sable Point Lighthouse just north of Ludington, Michigan, a straight-line distance of a little more than 50 miles. Accounting for currents, Bryan’s Big Lake Swim, as it has been dubbed, could measure up to 60 miles, almost twice as long as his English Channel swim (37 miles) that he accomplished on October 11, 2022.
Huffman will be abiding by the rules of the Marathon Swim Federation and Channel Swimming Association which stipulate that the swimmer cannot leave the water, be held afloat by any means, must begin on shore and clear the water at the end of the swim under their own power, and must wear a standard swimsuit that does not extend onto the legs, provide any floatation, or thermal protection.
If successful, Huffman will be one of only nine people to swim across Lake Michigan and the first to swim from Wisconsin to Michigan without a wetsuit.
“It’s just a Speedo, googles and a non-insulate swim cap for me,” Huffman proclaims. “I will have a support boat that will accompany me at all times, and it will carry observers to certify the swim. Nutritional support may be given from the boat, I must tread water or float while taking feedings. I also may not touch the boat.”
Huffman says the main challenge of the swim will be its immense distance. By comparison, an open-water marathon swim is six miles, making this Lake Michigan crossing nine to 10 continuous marathons. The swim is expected to take between 24 to 30 hours, depending on conditions.
In addition to the Lake Michigan crossing, Huffman plans to swim the 20 Bridges Swim in New York City on Thursday, September 28. The 20 Bridges Swim, together with the English Channel and Catalina Channel, are referred to as the Triple Crown of open water swimming. Previously known as the New York Marathon Swim, the 20 Bridges Swim is a 28-mile swim around the island of Manhattan. It is the longest of the Triple Crown swims, but also usually the fastest of the three.
After that, Huffman hopes to swim across the remaining Great Lakes and the Catalina Channel in California over the next three years. And with each swim, he hopes to raise enough money so that every child who comes to HAC to learn to swim does so affordably.
“With the English Channel swim, the reward was just finishing,” Huffman concludes. “Now, though, the reward will be finishing and knowing that kids will have access to swim lessons at HAC.”
To learn more about and to donate to Bryan’s Big Lake Swim, go to Big Lake Swim – Donate – Holland Aquatic Center.
* We are overwhelmed and sincerely grateful for the tremendous support already shown to Bryan’s Big Lake Swim. Nearly reaching this campaign’s initial goal of $12,00 in one week’s time is amazing. Our community has truly shown us how committed they are to making kids’ swim lessons accessible through scholarships here at HAC. Thank you to all who have given support to this project already. Now as the goal is stretched to $50,000 we are confident that our community’s commitment will grow with it. We look forward to being able to give more kids more access to swim lessons at HAC. (7/22/2023)